John JENKINS. Four-Part Consort
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Linn Records CKD677
Recorded: September-October 2012
1 March 2022
Todd M. McComb
I also want to note the new Jenkins album from Phantasm: The program surveys the four-part consorts, thus completing their long-running survey of the 4-, 5- & 6-part fantasies, i.e. Jenkins' greatest works. (And it was actually recorded back in 2012, but released only now... presumably due to awkward "seams" in recording contracts. "Awkward seams" are something Jenkins himself really avoids...!)
It's also an album involving organ for half the tracks, and the notes basically state that they wanted to include both performance styles: I still don't understand the choice, as the keyboard parts were clearly intended to help amateur players not to get lost. (They thus seem irrelevant for professionals, but I guess it's still a chance to hear these parts, which do date from the period itself....)
And I do continue to enjoy the basic Phantasm sound, but in some ways, this entry is more about the previous Spirit of Gambo recording of the five-part consorts (from 2019), that I didn't even review.... I've now replaced the Phantasm album of that material on my personal list, though. And so I should probably offer some thoughts on my slowness to do so: As I mention there, I guess I was basically "hypnotized" by Phantasm, and their bright top-first sound, more harmonically compact than the more polyphonic approach of Spirit of Gambo.
And in my defense, their early recordings did improve upon previous technique, but I also needed a bit of a kick in the pants (which a reader did provide last year...) to move off of the "favorite band" effect that'd developed for me, i.e. obscuring some actual attention to the details of the performances. (And they did make the first full recording of the 5-part fantasies, so that part is always going to be true....) Further, I'm not sure that it's really a defense, but of course the consort material has been something of an "adjunct" for me, in terms of extending some Franco-Flemish interests, etc.
I've thus waffled on how much time to spend, leading basically to laziness in evaluating these choices. I definitely need to do better, though, because if I'm going to offer suggestions for this repertory at all, they need to be meaningful. (It should be that or nothing, right?) In any case, after a lapse, I feel I'm finally hearing this music more clearly, as well as confirming my specific interest in Jenkins.... As far as the 4-part consorts, though, I do still prefer those from Spirit to the recent Phantasm release, which comes off more monolithically (although still enjoyably...).